Why You Should Never Say “Bien Fait” — French Vocabulary

You’ve just seen a French person do a good job, and you want to compliment them by saying “Well done”, so you tell them: “Bien fait !

…And now they look puzzled, hurt, and angry.

You just fell into a classical mistake. “Bien fait” is a trap of French vocabulary!

Why? What is the real English translation of “Bien fait”? Well, actually, it’s not quite as simple as a ‘translation’. There are some cultural considerations, too. Let me explain…

Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

Beginner: Know that you should never use “Bien fait” – and why
Intermediate: Understand what “Bien fait” really means
Advanced: Learn how to (properly + politely) congratulate someone in French

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher.
Welcome to Comme une Française!
I’m here to help you get better at speaking and understanding everyday French — anytime, anywhere.

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1) The trap: never use “Bien fait” in French

In French, the adjective “bien” means “well.”
The adjective / past participle “fait” means “done” (from the verb faire = “to do”)
So, word for word, Bien fait really means “Well done”!

…But can you really rely on a word-for-word translation?

Yes, most of the time. I know that’s not what high school teachers will tell you. But you’re not in high school anymore, and you’re not learning French for a test — you’re learning French to communicate !

Word-for-word translations will lead you to make mistakes, but that’s OK. I’d rather see you use word-for-word translations than only use three perfect sentences you know for certain are correct.

You should feel free to make mistakes. It’s the only way you will:

  • Have fun with French, and keep your joy and motivation
  • Communicate what you want to say, even when you don’t have perfect French
  • Learn French effectively in the long-term

Worst-case scenario? You’ll make yourself or someone else feel a little confused for a minute. It’s not a big problem.

My goal here is to:

  • Help you avoid the worst-case scenarios
  • Help you face less problems like these, so you can be more confident making mistakes.
  • Help you make new, better, more interesting mistakes in French.

And the first rule for this is: never use “Bien fait.”

2) What “Bien fait” really means

Bien fait is actually used in French as “Serves you right.”
It’s for petty revenge, to bask in the satisfaction of seeing someone else get hurt when you think they deserved it. It’s for blaming the victim, basically.

Tu as mangé trop de bonbons, et maintenant tu es malade ? Bien fait !
You ate too many sweets, and now you’re sick? Serves your right!

French people also commonly use it in sentences like:
C’est bien fait pour toi ! = literally “It’s well done for you” = “Serves you right.”
C’est bien fait pour lui ! = “Serves him right”

Don’t use “bien fait” to describe how you want your steak cooked at the restaurant either!
The French vocabulary words for describing how you want red meat cooked are:

Bleu = Very Rare (literally “blue“)

Saignant = Rare (literally “bleeding

Á point = Medium (literally “just the right time“)

Bien cuit = Well done (literally “well cooked“)


3) How to actually congratulate someone in French

Now, what should you say in French, when you want to say “Well done” ? What can you use instead of “Bien fait” to congratulate someone?

The simple, most common ways to congratulate a person in French are one-word sentences:

  • Bravo ! = “bravo!
  • Félicitations ! = “Congratulations!

Or there are also some longer, more impersonal sentences you can use:

  • C’est super ! = “That’s great!”
  • C’est génial ! = “That’s awesome!”
  • C’est fantastique ! = “It’s fantastic!”

For more tips, I also have a lesson on how to compliment someone in French.

You can also opt for more precision:

  • Je suis impressionné(e). = “I’m impressed.” (with a silent “e” in the feminine)
  • C’est très beau. = “It’s very beautiful.” (for art, a panorama, a room)
  • C’est très joli. = “It’s very pretty.” (for a dress, jewelry, flowers…)
  • C’est très bon. = “It’s very good.” (for food only)

If you’re describing a meal that you really enjoyed, you can also watch my previous lesson on how to appreciate food like a French person.

Finally, C’est bien fait can sometimes mean “That’s well done” in a positive manner (but never “Bien fait” on its own!). This is especially used in a technical context, like when describing a machine or a system.

In general, though, I advise you not to use it. The risk outweighs the benefits!

As a noun, le bienfait is always positive! It sounds just like “bien fait”, but it means “the benefit”, or “the good action.” It’s close to le bénéfice, which more often than not means “the profit,” especially commercial profit.

What did you learn today?

Never use “Bien fait !” in French.
It can be used to make fun of someone who got hurt (but that’s not cool.)
Instead, congratulate someone in French with “Bravo !” or “C’est super !”.

If you want to learn more about embarrassing mistakes with vocabulary, check out this short playlist that I put together for you.

À tout de suite.
See you in the next video!

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PS: If you want to learn more about French grammar and vocabulary, check out “this” short playlist that I put together for you. I’ll see you in the next video.

Allez, salut 🙂


Join the conversation!

  • Bonjour Geraldine
    Firstly, may I congratulate you on your exceptional command of English !
    May I, respectfully, suggest that if I am invited to have more cake at a tea party, but I’ve had sufficient, most English people would not say ” I’m good”.
    I would say “no, I’m fine thanks “. Oddly enough, many young English people reply “I’m good ” to the question “how are you” ?( by the way, I’m a 77 year old pensioner
    so I hate these modern English expressions ).
    Much more importantly, I did not know that Bien Fait meant ” serves you right”!
    Thank you so much for explaining the various nuances ; I hope to follow more of your excellent lessons.
    Rod Hudson

  • I kept making this mistake. My french friend could not make me understand, but reading your explanation I finally got it. BRAVO C’EST SUPER 🤗

  • Dear me. Someone should explain this to Madewell company. They put each individual purchase in a lovely bag with BIEN FAIT under the drawstring. I checked myself when my husband asked what I meant, and just as I was saying “…uses there’s an idiom I’m not aware of…” and you popped up! Thanks for the lesson.

  • Thanks for the explanation of bien fiat. I stumbled on your page while attempting to figure out the origin of my family name: Buffett. I recently saw the name spelled as “Beaufiat” in some family papers. The Buffett family (name) arrived in Connecticut in 1630 from England. One thought held by a family genealogist thought Buffett was an English word, but many records suggest the Buffett line was indeed French prior to the generation spent in England. Can the phrase “beau fiat” be a surname? I have bookmarked your page because I love words in general and I think it is time I polish my French. Thank you again.

    • Hi Laurie!

      What a great story 🙂

      – In French, “un buffet” is “a buffet” (a meal where you take what you want yourself) or “a dresser / a sideboard” (a piece of furniture). It’s a French word first, but before that the etymology isn’t clear.
      – “Bien fait” is spelled “Bien fait”, not “bien fiat”. “Fiat” (like the car brand) would sound like “Fee aht”, while “Fait” (= done) sounds like “fey”.
      – Indeed, “Beaufait” / “Beaufai” (not “Beau fiat”, same as above) is a French name! “Beaufai” is a town in Normandy (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufai), while “Beaufait” is the name of more than 1800 different people archived on the French genealogy website Geneanet : https://www.geneanet.org/genealogie/beaufait/BEAUFAIT

      Check out the website (if you haven’t already) to see if you can trace back your family line in the area they’re from?

      Have a great day and keep learning,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Thank you, Geraldine!

    I stumbled across your page while I was looking for the name of a small town. I really appreciate the unexpected French lesson.

    • That’s great, Charene!

      Stick around if you want 🙂

      Have a great day,
      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Waow. Je n’avais aucune idée que c’était le contraire. J’ai déjà dit, “c’était bien fait” et il semble que ça marche, mais je vais l’omettre dans le futur. Merci mille fois!

  • Merci! Bien que j’aie vécu en France, je ne l’ai jamais su. Je ne peux même pas commencer à imaginer combien de personnes j’ai insulté au fil des ans …

  • Merci pour la lecon! J’apprends toujours quelque chose de nouveau dans tes lecons. Est-ce qu’on peut dire “bien reussi” au lieu de “bien fait”?

  • Bonjour Geraldine,
    As a “traditionel student” of French I am grateful for your lessons in new aspects of the french language and culture. Well done. Thank you.

  • I ran into your French video on Utube an I am going to learn french now. What a wonderful way of teaching and what an amazing teacher you are

  • Bonsoir Géraldine. Parfois je dis “Chapeau !” pour féliciter quelqu’un. Est-ce que c’est démodé de dire ça? Merci

  • Salut Géraldine,
    Quelle est la différence entre “Merci” et “Remercie” ? Comment utilise-t-on les deux?
    Bonne journée

  • Merci beaucoup, Géraldine! You are always very thorough when giving a lesson! I appreciate knowing what to say instead of what not to say! Stay safe! We are not in extreme isolation here in Alberta, Canada quite yet. But nonetheless, I am staying home as much as possible!

  • En Anglais, on peut dire “Good enough” (ou “Good enough for you”) qui a le même sens que “bien fait”.

  • Good morning Geraldine and thanks. You are really helping us learn French .
    How about “C’est bien” ?

  • Je me souviens après l’élection présidentielle d’avoir vu une affiche sur laquelle il y avait une photo d’Emmanuel Macron et une autre de Marine Le Pen. Dessous la photo d’Emmanuel Macron était écrit “bien joué” et dessous celui de Marine Le Pen était écrit “bien fait”.
    Est-il possible d’utiliser “bien joué” pour féliciter quelqu’un ou y a-t-il un sens plus subtil à la stratégie?

    • Bonjour Heather.
      Oui !!! Excellent exemple. D’ailleurs, j’en avais parlé en cours. 🙂
      Bien joué = well done. C’est utilisé exactement de la même façon. Ca peut être ironique ou non.

  • Salut Geraldine
    We are all in this together and your smiling face has brightened my day. Thank you so much for you generous sharing of your knowledge.

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